I still have many unanswered questions for myself when I think about how to transition from a mechanistic to an organic system.
Two things that I am still unsure about are:
- Is grading according to age the best way to organise children in an organic education system?
- Should attendance be compulsory in an organic education system?
Whilst I do not have definitive answers, I do have some thoughts.
Regarding dividing children into grades – recently I watched my children play on the beach with a boy slightly older than themselves. The older boy modelled what they could not yet do and they watched him and learned. They absolutely loved his interest in them and his guidance and they both blossomed amazingly. I also watch the children at our pre-school who range in ages from two to six. The big ones look after the little ones, and the little ones watch and learn from the big ones – it is like a big, extended family. I think that children definitely learn as much or more from children of different ages as they do from children of the same age and I think we need to start to consider how we might enable this in a school environment. Perhaps we could divide them into stages rather than grades, as follows:
- stage 1: ages 2-6, learning mainly through collaborative play
- stage 2: ages 7-10, learning through exploration and observation of the physical world – form simple hypotheses about the physical world and then explore and test them.
- stage 3: ages 11-14, learning through exploration and observation of more abstract concepts. Start to form own opinions and express them. Start to develop sense of morality, ethics and personal responsibility.
- stage 4: ages 15-18, learning through creating own goals and defining own objectives. Start to solve life’s big questions by seeking and using multiple sources of information and experimentation.
Regarding whether school should be compulsory – compulsory schooling was created partially because of the large body of content that the founders of our existing system felt that it was necessary for children to know. Compulsory schooling also keeps children busy while parents are at work so fulfils a social function that is hard to ignore. If we agree that children today should be taught how to think and not what to think, then it is possible that compulsory attendance for the same number of days as under the mechanistic system is not such a definitive pre-requisite. Perhaps schools could specify a minimum number of required school days and children could attend flexibly so long as they met the minimum requirement? Or perhaps school should be voluntary? This certainly needs further thought and could be done differently on a case by case basis. So, how can we do this?
I think that these and many other questions are not at the level of principles for organic education, but more questions of interpretation. For me organic is about being flexible and evolving continuously. It is possible that schools might decide on one answer to the above questions and then change their minds based on how the experience unfolds. This is entirely appropriate.